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Jan. 14, 2021, 5:59 p.m. EST

Jean-Étienne Liotard’s ‘Portrait of Philibert Cramer’ Heads to Auction for the First Time in Centuries

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A rare highlight of Christie's online auction of Old Master and British drawings that started Thursday is Jean-Étienne Liotard ’s pastel Portrait of Philibert Cramer (1727-1779), one of the principal publishers of Voltaire

Offered by the sitter’s descendent, this is the first time the portrait has ever appeared on the market, according to Christie’s, which set the value of the piece between $400,000 and $600,000.

Liotard (1702-1789), a Swiss painter and art dealer, was famous for his pastel portraits. His sitters included Louis XV of France, Pope Clement XII , Bonnie Prince Charlie , Marie Antoinette , and the future George III of Great Britain, while he was Prince of Wales.

The 96-lot online auction, which will run through Jan. 28, also features property from the Cornelia Bessie Estate with a particular focus on drawings by some of the greatest 18th-century French artists.  

Cornelia Bessie and her husband, Simon Michael Bessie , were publishers and editors at Atheneum Publishers, perhaps the last major literary house to be started from scratch in the 20th century which helped guide the literary efforts of eight Nobel Prize winners. He died in 2008 at age 92, while she passed away in January 2020 at age 91.

From the estate of Cornelia Bessie is an important wash drawing of The Flight into Egypt by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo , with a presale estimate of between $200,000 and $300,000, as well as a red-chalk figure study of a young woman dozing Jean-Honoré Fragonard , estimated to fetch between $300,000 and $500,000.  

Among the Italian drawings offered for sale is an architectural drawing by architect Vincenzo Scamozzi , the pupil of Palladio. It has a presale estimate of between $30,000 and $50,000.

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